Category Archives: Iraq

Gleanings, 06.03.11

Mark Steyn: Arid Uka’s Gratitude (MUST READ)

The nations that built the modern world decided to outsource their future. In simple economic terms, the arithmetic is stark: In America, the boomers have condemned their shrunken progeny to the certainty of poorer, meaner lives. In sociocultural terms, the transformation will be even greater. Bismarck, so shrewd and cynical about the backward Balkans, was also the father of the modern welfare state: When he introduced the old-age pension, you had to be 65 to collect and Prussian life expectancy was 45 [that, presumably is from birth; once one had survived childhood, life expectancy for adults was much higher -rl]. Now life expectancy has near doubled, you get your pension a decade earlier, and, in a vain attempt to make that deformed math add up, Bismarck’s successors moved the old East/West faultline from the Balkans to the main street of every German city.  Americans sometimes wonder why, two decades after the collapse of the Warsaw Pact, the U.S. Army still lives in Germany. The day is approaching when they will move out — if only to avoid any more “tragic events” “taking place.”

Barry Rubin: Egypt: American Know-Nothings Play With the Lives of Millions of People

I have never seen an issue on which the American political-intellectual elite has been so insanely stupid and inaccurate. Easily ascertainable facts are simply ignored and censored out of the mass media. What is happening now makes the Western misreading of fascism in the 1930s and Communism in the 1940s look like a picnic. Some of us at least—who, as punishment, will essentially be denied access to any major American newspaper or television show to explain reality—remember the past consequences of those mistakes.

Daniel Pipes: Democratic Iraq?

While Middle Easterners from Morocco to Iran are agitating for more say in the governance of their countries, guess where the leadership is acquiring more power? … These developments confirm my expectation that the vast American-led effort to create a “free and prosperous” Iraq will end in failure.

[FB. Note]: Arabs’ natural tendency.

Evelyn Gordon: Egypt’s Renegotiation Threat

And while “renegotiating” the treaty may sound less threatening than scrapping it altogether, it isn’t. For the two items most Egyptians want to renegotiate are precisely those that made the treaty viable for Israel: one essential to its economic security, and one to its physical security … “Renegotiation” is thus a euphemism for gutting the treaty of everything that made it viable for Israel. As such, it’s worse than abrogation, since for that, Egypt would be blamed. But if Israel refused to amend the treaty, a world chronically unsympathetic to its security needs would blame it for failing to support Egypt’s fledgling democracy.

Jonathan Freedland: Antisemitism: the hatred that refuses to go away

John Galliano’s antisemitic diatribes and a glut of recent claims that there is a Jewish conspiracy will be dismissed as eccentric. But they are symptoms of a deeper malaise … All this might prompt the conclusion that antisemitism is making a sudden and unwelcome return. The trouble is, it never really went away. What’s more, it is not confined to the celebrity wackos and eccentrics who have let the mask slip in recent days. It is more widespread than that – contrary to those who like to pretend antisemitism is a historical phenomenon, one that faded away with the Third Reich.

Praveen Swami: Turning a blind eye to the blood-thirsty clerics

Pakistan is being swamped by a rising tide of religious hatred, while its political leaders remain silent, writes Praveen Swami … Pakistan’s blasphemy laws demonstrate to its people that real power lies with the clerics, and their military backers – not the politicians they elect. In 2008, when he was elected to office, Mr Zardari had a real opportunity to lay the foundations for a durable, functional democracy. His failure to act has led Pakistan one step closer to the precipice.

Benny Morris: The West, the Arabs, and the Real Qaddafi

Which reminds me of a story a fine, young journalist once told me about her experiences in Tripoli. It was in the 1980s, I think. She had come to interview Qaddafi. She was ushered into the famous tent. Qaddafi sent his aides away and the two of them shared lunch. And then Qaddafi tried to caress her. Flustered, she got up to leave. He then chased her around the table, bent on rape. She was brave and apparently fit; she outran him, at least long enough for his aides to rush in at the sound of her screams. Rape averted … It is a shame journalists did not usually publish their impressions of and experiences with Qaddafi. This no doubt facilitated Western and Arab acceptance of cooperation with this almost unique, base specimen of humanity (perhaps Saddam Hussein came closest).

Israel Matzav: As America builds mosques, Islamic countries destroy churches

But while mosques continue to be built in America, Christian communities dwindle in the Middle East and elsewhere. It is almost impossible to build churches in Islamic countries (forget synagogues – there are almost no Jews left in most Islamic countries).

Honor-Killings and Suicide Bombers: The Pathologies of Honor-Shame Cultures

We just did a series of readings in my honor-shame class on gender and especially the issue of honor-killings. Although the feminist article we read tried to argue that honor-killings were on a continuum of violence against women that characterize all cultures, I argued that honor-killings, where it is legitimate to shed the blood of women in your own home for the sake of family honor, constituted a separate phenomenon, one sustained by a peculiar and deeply insecure masculine culture.

The other dubious claim the article made was the notion that honor-killings have “nothing to do with Islam,” that although almost all the current examples of honor-killings we have comes from Muslim countries, they warn:

    Although these reports are written with sensitivity toward religious differences, they nevertheless leave the impression that there may be something wrong with Islam or its practice. Especially in the televised reports, a sobering discussion about honor killings is frequently juxtaposed over a silhouette of a mosque or a soundtrack of a Moslem call for prayer. The outcome of these visual and auditory cues is to inseparably tie the crime with the already negatively stereotyped Moslem world. In fact, honor killings predate Islam and are not consistent with the Qur’an…

    Of course, the sociological meaning of culture subsumes all forms of belief systems, but any connection between Islam and this heinous crime is by no means clear or direct. International coverage of honor killings that overemphasizes the role of religion fails to look at the more prevalent patriarchal legitimization behind violence against women.

The striking correlation between honor-killings and Muslim communities the world over (ethnicity plays a lessor role) sharpens still further when we factor in the legitimate causes for an honor-killing. Almost every culture that approves/demands the killing of a daughter/sister for sexual misbehavior would agree that if the girl becomes a public prostitute, she deserves to die.

But what if she did not have sex? What if she were still a virgin?

Or what if she was raped? Shouldn’t it be the rapist who gets killed?

What if she dresses immodestly (and how immodestly)?

What if she went to a movie with girlfriends?

The more unforgiving the attitude, the more trivial the trigger to violence… the more likely we are talking about a Muslim community. There are lots of reasons for this, many of which I don’t know about, some of which relate to a broader anti-modernism. But one, I think, that deserves attention, is the psychological issue of the insecurity of the males. The more insecure, the more “humiliated” in the world of alpha male precedence (i.e., where real “honor” gets accumulated), the more likely males are to obsess over someone else’s loss of honor, and victimize their own women, rather than fight other men.

(In some places, the practice is to kill the girl on suspicion, get the medical report on her virginity, and only go after the guy, if she’s not a virgin.)

What has recently surfaced in Iraq, however, suggests that even if we grant the above-stated reservations (which I would not, nor do I think would any serious sociologist unimpaired by political correctness), Islamic Jihad has no hesitation about exploiting the most craven aspects of the culture of honor-killing to achieve its goals. (H/T Solomonia)
February 5, 2009
Al-Qaeda damaged by arrest of ‘rape and suicide bomb’ woman

(Qassim Abdul-Zahra/AP)

samira ahmed jassim
Samira Ahmed Jassim is suspected of recruiting more than 80 female suicide bombers
Deborah Haynes in Baghdad

The arrest of a woman suspected of grooming rape victims to become female suicide bombers in Iraq has dealt a blow to the network of extremists that orchestrates such attacks, a senior Iraqi official said yesterday.

Samira Ahmed Jassim, 51, is accused of recruiting more than 80 women to become human bombs, including 28 who actually carried out attacks.

She has apparently confessed to helping to organise the rape of young Iraqi women.

She would then play on the shame associated with victims of rape in Iraqi society to convince the women to become suicide bombers as their only means of escape.

The Shaming of the Shoe: Elder of Zion Hits the Nail on the Head

There’s a difference between the partitive and the possessive genitive. The shoe’s shaming (of Bush), or the shame of the shoe (for Al-Zeidi). I’ll go with the latter… but then, I’m an Occidentocentric, guilt-integrity kind of guy. Hopeless.

Elder of Zion has a revealing roundup of Arab news treatment of the shoe at Bush’s face incident. He nails it by pointing out that there is a confusion here between importance and impotence. I add some comments along the way.

Mixing up importance and impotence

The Arab press, and the Arab world in general, cannot stop talking about the Great Shoe Revolution. Here are only some of the articles in the past day:

Arab News:

    Al-Zeidi maybe one of the bravest men on this globe because not only did he defy and humiliate the emperor but also he knew very well what to expect at the hands of those who created Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo and all the other secret prisons in every dark corner of the earth.

As EoZ points out below, the disingenuousness of this response is striking. Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo pale beside torture in the average, run-of-the-mill Arab prison, which populate every dark corner of the Arab world. On the contrary, it’s the remarkably high standards of the West that make Abu Ghraib a scandal, not the deeds done there. As for our hero, Al-Zeidi, he’s thrown his foot at the leader for whom he is least likely to suffer reprisal, not the most. (See below, the remarks of Rania al Malky in the Egyptian Daily News about how no journalist is throwing shoes at Arab leaders who do as much if not worse things than Bush did.

So what’s going on here? On one level, this is classic demopathy, not unlike the French journalist who assured me in 2003, as French intellectuals were busy trashing the US for threatening to go into Iraq, that “courage is attacking the strongest, and the US is the strongest.” Courage is attacking those who are likely to hurt you for so doing; and in this case the US was the least likely to punish critics. (This is also true of that courageous anti-fascist “progressive” camp that continuously trashes Bush for being a fascist even as they benefit from Bush radically unfascist tolerance for their criticism.)

So even as you take advantage of your enemy’s commitment to tolerance and human rights, you denounce him for being the greatest violator of those rights. This would be pathetic if it did not garner such enthusiasm both in the Arab and the Western world. And of course, who escapes notice while people revile Bush’s (or Israel’s) violation of human rights? The really vicious violators.

Arab News again:

    Al-Zeidi has proved to be someone who can unite all factions and ethnicities.

This is a particularly revealing comment. What it says, in fact, is that a hollow preening gesture which (as even Arab commentators below are painfully aware) reveals the impotence and clownishness of the Arab world, can gather something that seems like unanimity among Arabs, not matter what their clan allegiances. Why? Because it’s about honor, and because it seems like in this case the US was dishonored. That’s something everyone in the Arab world can (seemingly) unite around… even the people who were liberated from Saddam Hussein by the US.

This is just the kind of pathetic unanimity that the Arabs can muster around the question of Zionism. No matter how much they despise each other, they can always unite around hating Israel. Feminists like to joke about how men think with their one-eyed head; Arabs think with their shoes and the results are accordingly sadly lacking in analytic rigor.

The Apocalyptic Origins of Suicide Terrorism

I want to apologize to those readers who have been following this blog for the extensive lapse in postings for the last two months. I have been working on my book about milennialism and have found it difficult to switch gears. But it has occurred to me that I have failed to use a great resource — my readers — in preparing my book. As a result, I would like to post some of the passages from my book to get your feedback.

The first posting I’m putting up is a section that I’m not sure I will keep in the book. It comes from the last chapter on Global Jihad as an apocalyptic movement. I’m not sure that I can make this argument well — it’s a huge and problematic literature, riddled with functionalist retrospective explanations that’s hard to combat effectively without doing my own research. Any suggestions, including other sources, would be most appreciated.

The Apocalyptic Origins of Suicide Terrorism

The marginal quality of apocalyptic thinking and the kinds of violent actions that it inspired comes across quite clearly in the issue of suicide terrorism against Israeli civilians. Predatory martyrdom – killing yourself as part of a Jihad against enemy soldiers – has plenty of Qur’anic support, even though it is not a “constant” of Muslim history.[1] Nor is it uniquely Muslim. Kamikaze pilots had already shown the world how warriors, who would rather die with honor in battle than survive in shame, deal with certain defeat. This kind of suicidal attack on enemy troops first appeared in the Middle East as part of the new global Jihad, when Hizbullah chased the Americans out of Lebanon with two massive suicide operations in 1983.[2]

Suicide terrorism – attacks deliberately targeting civilians – has a different ethos. Here, any claim to warrior’s honor fails. As Sheik of Al-Azhar, Muhammad Tantawi wrote:

Any explosion that leads to the death of innocent women and children is a criminal act, carried out only by people who are base, cowards and traitors, because a rational man with just a bit of respect and manliness, refrains from such operations altogether.[3]

Few warrior traditions do not condemn attacks on civilians, a fortiori, a monotheistic religion claiming to serve a merciful God and to treasure every human life as a universe. The ideologue of modern, apocalyptic Jihad, Sayyid Qutb, cited the Qur’an and insisted:

Do not kill any women, children or elderly people (Muhammad’s successor Abu Bakr).” “Fight for the cause of God those who fight against you, but do not commit aggression. God does not love aggressors (Qur’an 2:190).”

These principles had to be strictly observed, even with those enemies who had persecuted them and inflicted unspeakable atrocities on them.[4]

To commit suicide while targeting innocent women and children, then, as some bombers did starting in 1993, demands a major transgression, one that offends basic civilized norms.[5] People do not readily commit suicide, much less send their children to do so, much less, to kill children.[6] First, as a basic issue of Islamic Sharia, there is a commandment not to kill the defenseless civilians among one’s enemy unless they kill yours.[7] Indeed, one disciple of Abdullah Azzam claimed that what distinguished his master from Osama bin Laden, was precisely this issue:

[T]here is no way that a real Mujahid, a ‘man’ like Abdullah Azzam, who was fond of the Salafi creed, the companions and Ibn Taimiyyah, would lower himself to the methods that Ibn Laden used and advocated or even condone such terrible acts and deviation from the true jihad. How can a Mujahid like him end up killing women and children, attacking civilian non-Muslims, blowing up places of worship…[8]

When, in the early 1990s, Hamas first introduced suicide terrorism – martyrdom operations – opposition came even from their own ranks.[9] To explain it, one must not only explain how marginal activists and theologians defend it, but how a public embraces it. When the IRA tried suicide terrorism, the opprobrium that ensued guaranteed that that was the last such attempt. Suicide terrorism needs public approval to move from the margins to the center.

The academic literature on the origins of suicide bombing works almost exclusively ex post facto and has a heavy functionalist bias.[10] Once it has become popular, once the suicides are praised by their families, acclaimed as “martyrs” by the Imams and the public alike, once TV sequences show the gorgeous, unveiled, eager female sexual partners that await the dead man in heaven – once it has become socially normalized – then one can posit some more pedestrian motivations for suicide bombing… like humiliating check points, or peer pressure, or resistance to occupation, or even “despair at not having hope.”[11] But long before that can happen, many inhibitions – religious, cultural, human – must all fall victim to something still more powerful.

To explore the phenomenon ex post ante, as turkey rather than bat historians, let us look more closely at the millennial stakes at play in its origins. Rather than invoke public opinion as a key explanation, we need to ask: What drove some men to develop a theology of suicide terrorism? And what made it so popular? To do so, we must consider the situation of Hamas and their Palestinian constituency when they made the “leap.” From a millennial perspective, it makes sense that it would occur in Gaza, by an apocalyptic group dedicated to global Jihad, during the “Oslo Peace Process.”[12]

Oslo created an apocalyptic crisis for both Israeli and Arab activist millennials – for the messianic settlers, disciples of Zvi Yehuda Kook, it meant reversing the wheels of destiny: giving back sacred territory defied their apocalyptic scenario in which that land’s conquest was part of a redemptive historical process. Similarly, to those radicals committed to Jihad against Israel and the West, the very idea of compromise represented a humiliation and a renunciation of the claim to the entire Waqf of the land of Israel.

Such a collapse of one’s redemptive historical scenario provokes a crisis of faith: supremely confident while things go their way,such reversals often trigger the trip switch from passive to active, transformational to violent. Such shifts in turn intensified the apocalyptic dynamic of “one person’s messiah is another’s Antichrist.” Each side saw the other increasingly as an implacable enemy, and in addition to longstanding free-lance Arab violence against Israeli civilians which intensified throughout the early 1990s, religious Jews engaged in unprecedented violence – an intentional massacre of Arab civilians (Baruch Goldstein, Hebron, February 1994); and the first assassination of an Israeli Prime Minister (November, 1995). [13]

For the apocalyptic Muslims, as well, Oslo defied sacred history. Dedicated at their core to the irredentist scenario, they could view negotiations only as betrayal, treason against all three circles of the apocalyptic “us” – Palestinians, Arabs, and Muslims.[14] With the PLO pursuing negotiations (regardless of whether in good faith or not), and even a fair number of Palestinians expressing optimism in resolving the conflict without eliminating the Israeli presence, Hamas found itself faced with a contradiction to its faith in the juggernaut of its total victory, a development that left them temporarily speechless.[15]

One response, among the more “conventional thinkers” was to justify the truce and “move away” from the theme of the destruction of Israel. The Hamas intellectual, Bassam Jirrar pursued this option with a very popular book, in which he created an apocalyptic extender, a temporal buffer between “now” and the Endtime in a popular book, Israel’s Destruction in 2022. Cook notes how this relatively moderate Muslim apocalyptic writer – little of the characteristic anti-Semitism and ferocious violence in his works – created a possibility for temporary moderation: “If God has really decreed the destruction of Israel in that year, it is sacrilegious to attempt to destroy it beforehand. Hence Hamas’ willingness to speak about a truce with Israel.”[16]

But while conditions of growing cognitive dissonance produce face-saving formulas, they also, as we have seen, encourage coercive purity and still more indiscriminate violence. Already as the first Intifada faltered in the early 1990s, Hamas apocalyptic cult of blood and death intensified as the exorbitant hopes of destroying Israel it had inspired, collapsed. And this upping of the ante came partly as a response to the fragility of Hamas’ own apocalyptic Endtimes prophecies failed.

At the same time, however, the turn toward the End… showed the Intifada under severe threat, its truth revealed only in ecstatic obliteration – precisely the logic of the suicide bomber who would save his world by blowing it up.[17]

The Oslo Process (1993-2000) took matters still further in the wrong direction. Giving up on war now was bad enough, but making peace with the intolerable enemy? Impossible. Each negotiation, therefore, brought its harvest of martyrs who gave their lives to assure that the peace process would “collapse.” A Hamas operative exulted over the results the Ninth round of the Peace Negotiations:
In little more than eighteen days the number of martyrs has gone to thirty-five, and this number did not exist in the past, and we have never seen a number like this except under the shadow of negotiations…”[18]

Oliver and Steinberg’s study illustrates the world of belief in which the Palestinians turned to suicide terror – the apocalyptic religious world of the highest stakes: “no” to any compromise, “yes” to every violence, anything to provoke Armaggedon, anything destruction to save the world.[19] Where 19th-century anarchists declared: “God is dead, everything is permitted, the apocalyptic Jihadi of the late 20th century declared, “Allah wills it, everything is permitted.”[20]

Endnotes

[1] The first case was a Christian Palestinian woman from *** who blew herself up near Israeli soldiers in 1982.
[2] The Tamil Tigers were the first to copy Hizbullah; see Mia Bloom, Dying to Kill: The Allure of Suicide Terror (New York: Columbia University Press, 2005), pp. 60-75.
[3] MEMRI Inquiry and Analysis Series – No. 53, May 2001.
[4] Cited in Berman, Terror and Liberalism, p. 98. See also, Al-Gama’a Al-Islamiyya’s renunciation of violence: Al-Musawwar (Egypt), June 28, 2002. Cited in MEMRI, Inquiry and Analysis Series – No. 309, December 22, 2006.
[5] On the Islamic prohibitions, see Lewis, “License to Kill.” Qaradawhi condemned 9-11, invoking this principle of not attacking innocent civilians (from BBC Newsnight, July 8, 2004).
[6] One of the great weaknesses of the Palestinian movie Paradise Now (2005) is the lack of real emotion, motivation and preparation behind the two men’s determination to undertake a suicide mission. Overall, one does not get the impression that the religious dimension holds much significance for the director, Hany Abu-Assad.
[7] On the prohibitions, see Lewis, “License to Kill;” Qaradawhi condemned 9-11, invoking this principle of not attacking innocent civilians (from BBC Newsnight, July 8, 2004).
[8] Jalal Adualrub, comment at a thread on condemnations of Bin Laden by other Muslim authorities at Islam Life. The author is an active Jihadi warrior. 10-Feb-07]
[9] Cook “Muslim Fears or the Year 2000,” Middle East Quarterly 5:2 (June, 1998); Understanding Jihad, pp. 142-7. On the legal restraints on killing civilians in Jihad, see Bernard Lewis, “License to Kill: Usama bin Ladin’s Declaration of Jihad,” Foreign Affairs 77 (1998), p. 19; on the problems for Islamic theology posed by suicide terror, see the earliest study on the issue, Re’uven Paz, Hit’abdut ve-G’ihad ba-Islam ha-radiḳali ha-Palestini: ha-pan ha-ra’yoni (Tel Aviv: Merkaz Mosheh Dayan le-limude ha-Mizrah ha-tokhon ve-Afriḳah, Universiṭat Tel-Aviv, 1998).
[10] See above all, Robert Pape’s Dying to Win: The Strategic Logic to Suicide Terrorism (New York: Random House, 2005) which pushes the functionalist “rational choice” paradigm to its extreme.
[11] See Mia Bloom, Dying to Kill, pp. 19-44, specifically in the context of the Palestinian case.
[12] For a study of the apocalyptic setting of Hamas and suicide terrorism in the mid 1990s, see Paul Steinberg and Anne-Marie Oliver, The Road to Martyrs’ Square: A Journey into the World of the Suicide Bomber.
[13] On the impact of the Oslo Process on the apocalyptic thinking of the post-’67 Kookists, see Gershom Gorenberg, The End of Days. It produced two unprecedented acts of violence from those circles, Baruch Goldstein’s attack on the Muslim worshippers in Hebron and Yigal Amir’s assassination of Yithak Rabin: see Ehud Sprinzak, Brother Against Brother: Violence and Extremism in Israeli Politics from Altalena to the Rabin Assassination (New York: Free Press, 1999). See also below, n. 233.
[14] See Hamas Charter (above, n. 46), article 14 (The Three Circles); article 13 (Peaceful Solutions and International Conferences).
[15] “The Oslo accords of September 1993—in which Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization agreed on a set of terms—marked a turning point for apocalyptic writers, leaving them temporarily speechless. But quickly they ascribed the whole process to a plot by the dajjal. In Jericho: the Cursed City, Muhammad ‘Izzat ‘Arif wrote that the Jews had given Jericho (which together with Gaza was the first piece of land Israel withdrew from) to the Palestinians because of a curse in Joshua 6:26 against anyone “who undertakes to rebuild this city, Jericho.’”
[16] Cook, Contemporary Muslim Apocalyptic, pp. 120-22; Gold, The Fight for Jerusalem, pp. 237-8
[17] Oliver and Steinberg, Martyrs Square, p.110.
[18] Oliver and Steinberg, Martyrs Square, p.179.
[19] Ibid., pp. 114-81. In this sense, Timothy McVeigh, Baruch Goldstein and the Hamas suicide bombers shared a common apocalyptic logic (Gorenberg, pp. 203-8).
[20] Muravich,

Will Obama Retain Gates?

As President-elect Obama pieces together his cabinet, no decision is more consequential than his choice of Secretary of Defense. With two difficult wars ongoing, many are suggesting that Obama would be foolish to replace a competent and successful Sec-Def like Gates. Such a move would open a seam that enemies are sure to attempt to exploit.

Prof. Alan Gropman of the Industrial College of the Armed Forces at the National Defense University wrote an op/ed in several publications before the election urging the incoming president to keep Gates.   

Gropman writes: 

To accelerate senatorial ratification, President-elect McCain or Obama should consider selective reappointing of well-qualified senior officials. The most important would be Defense Secretary Robert Gates. Since Congress is in session before the presidential inauguration, either McCain or Obama could have that crucial position filled soonest.

Electoral Realities and Military Strategy in the Civil War and Iraq

Clausewitz famously wrote “war is a continuation of politics by other means”. Clausewitz meant this as a description of war, but it should also remind politicians and war-planners alike that there are electoral realities that must be taken into account by a democracy at war.

The Civil War is a clear example of the interplay between electoral reality and military strategy, and it should influence our thinking as we come to an election during the war in Iraq.

Blunt Defense of War in Iraq from Fallen U.S. Soldier

Army Specialist Stephen Fortunato from Beverly, MA, was killed Tuesday when his vehicle ran over an IED. His mother sent a blog post of his to the Boston Globe, in which Specialist Fortunato lays out an unapoligetic and refreshing defense of the effort in Iraq. It isn’t pretty, but it is eloquent in its honest simplicity.

If I may …

I’d like to say something….Just to get it out there so it is clear.
To all the pampered and protected Americans who feel it is their duty to inform me that I am not fighting for their freedom, and that i am a pawn in Bush’s agenda of greed and oil acquisition: Noted, and [expletive deleted] You.

Honor-Killings and Whistle-blowing: Why Media cannot be free in some cultures

A terrible and terribly revealing tale from Iraq. In reading it, keep in mind my working definition of an honor-shame culture: one in which it is permissable, expected, even required, that you shed someone else’s blood for the sake of your honor. Honor killings of women (daughters, sisters, wives) represent a particular (and I’d argue pathological) direction for this dynamic to take. It’s one thing to challenge another man who has impugned your honor to a duel, quite another to attack an unarmed and defenseless person.

In this case, the victim was one who shamed the family by disagreeing with a husband’s decision to kill his daughter, thus publicly criticizing the man, and publicizing (to the West!) the deed. In understanding the dynamics here, one can begin to realize both a) why there is no free news media in the Arab world, and b) why we cannot rely on information from the Arab world because intimidation is the name of the game for anything that might present that world in a negative light. Without understanding these issues, Western journalism in the Arab world is worse than useless.

It is noteworthy that the Guardian has covered this story extensively, and suggests that despite the built-in prejudice against our hearing about these phenomena, some of this does get through when the Western media shows courage. The Guardian is hardly my favorite newspaper, but I give them kudos when they deserve it.

Mother who defied the killers is gunned down

Five weeks ago Leila Hussein told The Observer the chilling story of how her husband had killed their 17-year-old daughter over her friendship with a British soldier in Basra. Now Leila, who had been in hiding, has been murdered – gunned down in cold blood. Afif Sarhan in Basra and Caroline Davies report on the final act of a brutal tragedy

Afif Sarhan and Caroline Davies

The Observer, Sunday June 1 2008

Leila Hassan
Leila Hussein, who was murdered in Iraq. Photograph: Observer

Leila Hussein lived her last few weeks in terror. Moving constantly from safe house to safe house, she dared to stay no longer than four days at each. It was the price she was forced to pay after denouncing and divorcing her husband – the man she witnessed suffocate, stamp on, then stab their young daughter Rand in a brutal ‘honour’ killing for which he has shown no remorse.

Now there’s a piece of liberal cognitive egocentrism. Why would he express remorse? Because it’s against our rules? Because his wife was unhappy with his behavior? Certainly not because his neighbors disapproved (which is the only likely way he might express remorse).

Though she feared reprisals for speaking out, she really believed that she would soon be safe. Arrangements were well under way to smuggle her to the Jordanian capital, Amman. In fact, she was on her way to meet the person who would help her escape when a car drew up alongside her and two other women who were walking her to a taxi. Five bullets were fired: three of them hit Leila, 41. She died in hospital after futile attempts to save her.

Her death, on 17 May, is the shocking denouement to a tragedy which had its origins in an innocent friendship between her student daughter, Rand Abdel-Qader, 17, and a blond, 22-year-old British soldier known only as Paul.

The two had met while Rand, an English student at Basra University, was working as a volunteer helping displaced families and he was distributing water. Although their friendship appears to have involved just brief, snatched conversations over four months, Rand had confided her romantic feelings for Paul to her best friend, Zeinab, 19.

She died, still a virgin, four months after she had last seen him when her father, Abdel-Qader Ali, 46, discovered that she had been seen talking ‘to the enemy’ in public. She had brought shame on his honour, was his defence, and he had to cleanse his family name. Despite openly admitting the murder, he has received no punishment.

Were the reporters to go into it (as they do below), they would probably discover that his peer group all approved, and the Iraqi authorities, even ones uncomfortable with the depiction of the Brits as “the enemy”, would not try and fight this kind of public opinion. Note that she died a virgin. In Jordan and other places, the fathers/brothers kill the daughter first, wait for the autopsy, and then, if she’s not a virgin, kill the man involved. Why not both right away? Because the man has a clan behind him, hence you need a good reason. The girl has no one behind her, since her own family is doing the murder… no fear of retaliation.

Picture Worth a Thousand Words: He Knows Who Won’t Kill Him

It is a widespread belief among rabid anti-Americans (whether they be Muslims, Europeans, or Americans) that American troops are brutalizing the Iraqi population. Here’s a couple of photos that tell a story that sociologists would call “non-reactive evidence” — that is, it’s not something you say intentionally, but you indicate with your behavior. (Hat tip: Phillip Peck)

iraqi kid and gi 2

And another:

iraqi kid and gi 1

When the Phalange went into Sabra and Shatilla and started their massacre of Palestinians in 1982, the Palestinians who could ran to Israelis for protection. Why? Because no matter what they said, before and after, in front of the camera or to any journalist who wished to hear, about how the Israelis are massacring Palestinians every chance they get, and that Sharon is a killer, they knew, when the rubber hit the road, that Israelis don’t massacre innocent civilians on purpose… unlike every faction in Lebanon, Christian, Druse, Shiite, Sunni, Marxist, you name it… for the previous seven years.

It’s Up To You

From Ralph Peters latest book:

In the course of our . . . engagements in Iraq and Afghanistan we have done all that a foreign culture could do to create opportunities for damaged societies to repair themselves. We will not know the true value of our interventions for at least another decade, perhaps much longer. For all of our investment of blood and treasure, we operate at the margins. Our military efforts have been worthy and necessary, but we provide, at most, a catalyst. Success in building a future, rather than wallowing in a reimagined past, is up to the people of the Middle East. The longer they and their governments resist the necessity of reforming not only their societies but fundamental patterns of social behavior, the graver their failure will be. Because of our efforts, Iraq may become the Middle East’s beacon of liberty. Or it may end as another Arab pyre. The Iraqis, not us, will determine their ultimate fate. Their choices will shape civilization’s future.”

Making Fun Of Zarqawi

An effort by the American military to discredit the terrorist leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi by showing video outtakes of him fumbling with a machine gun raised the issue of honor-shame dynamics in the Arab World: From the New York Times:

An active-duty Special Forces colonel who served in Iraq also said that what the video showed actually had little relationship to Mr. Zarqawi’s level of terrorist skill. “Looking at the video, I enjoy it; I like that he looks kind of goofy,” said the Special Forces officer, who was granted anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly on military matters. “But as a military guy, I shrug my shoulders and say: ‘Of course he doesn’t know how to use it. It’s our gun.’ He doesn’t look as stupid as they said he looks.”

The release of the captured video reflected the dueling public relations efforts between the American-led forces fighting in Iraq and the terrorists and insurgents. It also reflected increasing interest by the military and civilian strategists in trying to ridicule Mr. Zarqawi.

“In Arab and Muslim societies, pride and shame are felt much more profoundly than they are in Western culture,” said J. Michael Waller, a professor at the Institute of World Politics, a graduate school in Washington. “To find video like this that can cut him down to size and discredit him is a real way of fighting terrorism.” A paper written by Professor Waller advocating the use of ridicule against the insurgents has been circulating at the Pentagon and among military commanders with experience in Iraq recently, according to several military officers.

Biden’s Plan: Divide, Divide, Divide

In a New York Times op-ed piece Joseph Biden, the senior Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee proposed Monday that Iraq be divided into three separate regions — Kurdish, Shiite and Sunni — with a central government in Baghdad:

The alternative path out of this terrible trap has five elements.

The first is to establish three largely autonomous regions with a viable central government in Baghdad. The Kurdish, Sunni and Shiite regions would each be responsible for their own domestic laws, administration and internal security. The central government would control border defense, foreign affairs and oil revenues. Baghdad would become a federal zone, while densely populated areas of mixed populations would receive both multisectarian and international police protection.

Decentralization is hardly as radical as it may seem: the Iraqi Constitution, in fact, already provides for a federal structure and a procedure for provinces to combine into regional governments.

Besides, things are already heading toward partition: increasingly, each community supports federalism, if only as a last resort. The Sunnis, who until recently believed they would retake power in Iraq, are beginning to recognize that they won’t and don’t want to live in a Shiite-controlled, highly centralized state with laws enforced by sectarian militias. The Shiites know they can dominate the government, but they can’t defeat a Sunni insurrection. The Kurds will not give up their 15-year-old autonomy.

Some will say moving toward strong regionalism would ignite sectarian cleansing. But that’s exactly what is going on already, in ever-bigger waves. Others will argue that it would lead to partition. But a breakup is already under way. As it was in Bosnia, a strong federal system is a viable means to prevent both perils in Iraq.

The second element would be to entice the Sunnis into joining the federal system with an offer they couldn’t refuse. To begin with, running their own region should be far preferable to the alternatives: being dominated by Kurds and Shiites in a central government or being the main victims of a civil war. But they also have to be given money to make their oil-poor region viable. The Constitution must be amended to guarantee Sunni areas 20 percent (approximately their proportion of the population) of all revenues.

The third component would be to ensure the protection of the rights of women and ethno-religious minorities by increasing American aid to Iraq but tying it to respect for those rights. Such protections will be difficult, especially in the Shiite-controlled south, but Washington has to be clear that widespread violations will stop the cash flow.

Fourth, the president must direct the military to design a plan for withdrawing and redeploying our troops from Iraq by 2008 (while providing for a small but effective residual force to combat terrorists and keep the neighbors honest). We must avoid a precipitous withdrawal that would lead to a national meltdown , but we also can’t have a substantial long-term American military presence. That would do terrible damage to our armed forces, break American and Iraqi public support for the mission and leave Iraqis without any incentive to shape up.

Fifth, under an international or United Nations umbrella, we should convene a regional conference to pledge respect for Iraq’s borders and its federal system. For all that Iraq’s neighbors might gain by picking at its pieces, each faces the greater danger of a regional war. A “contact group” of major powers would be set up to lean on neighbors to comply with the deal.

Mr. Bush has spent three years in a futile effort to establish a strong central government in Baghdad, leaving us without a real political settlement, with a deteriorating security situation — and with nothing but the most difficult policy choices. The five-point alternative plan offers a plausible path to that core political settlement among Iraqis, along with the economic, military and diplomatic levers to make the political solution work. It is also a plausible way for Democrats and Republicans alike to protect our basic security interests and honor our country’s sacrifices.

Joel Fishman on the 21st Century Challenge of Iranian Nukes

Joel Fishman writes in Makor Rishon:

Joel Fishman
Makor Rishon
21 April 2006

Twentieth-Century Turmoil and the Iran Nuclear Crisis

From time to time, people have asked if the study of the past is relevant and if practical lessons can be learned from specific historical precedents. There is a certain consistency in human behavior and in that of societies in the context of tradition, interaction with their neighbors and geographical realities. Therefore, in certain instances, the study of the past may offer information helpful to policy-makers. Similarly, a systems analyst endeavors to identify things that can go wrong in a business and industrial setting, suggests a range of outcomes, and offers the means of dealing with uncertainty and its consequences. An historian does the same, using the historical method. However, it is necessary to bear in mind that “the study of the past provides no answers unless questions are first asked.”

[and the better the questions, the better the answers... RL]

Our question is: what insights can the examination of historical precedents offer in the case of the present Iranian nuclear crisis? There are two types of answers: 1) One with regard to the dynamic of illegal rearmaments following the precedent of Nazi Germany in the early thirties, and, 2) The stakes involved in the event that Iran should succeed. Who would benefit most from an Iranian success and at what cost to others?

Leopold Schwarzschild, a German Jewish journalist who fled Germany in 1933 when Hitler came to power, lived in Paris until the summer of 1940 when he emigrated to England. In 1943, he published a book entitled, World in Trance, which described the interwar period, particularly Germany’s preparations for war during the Weimar and Nazi eras. One of Schwarzschild’s most valuable insights was that during the process of rearming Germany experienced a state of acute vulnerability which offered a brief but unparalleled opportunity to those who wished to stop Germany, if only they only had the will to do so. He described the situation just after Hitler’s rise to power, as follows:

No gift of prophecy was needed to see this [the official policy of going to war], no genius needed to understand its implications. Germany would now begin to arm as fast as possible, because the first stages of rearmament would be the dangerous period. A certain amount of time was required to make her newly emerging mass army capable of putting up a serious fight. This period was also the period of reprieve for Germany’s opponents, their last opportunity to stop her. It could be done only by force, certainly not by words or pieces of paper, but still without any real bloodshed….

The game for both sides was simple. For Germany and the other powers there was only one question: Would Germany be permitted to go through the period of military weakness unmolested? Or would she be forced to abandon her fatal path?

Despite current Western abhorrence of fascism and war, it should be remembered that certain leaders view Nazi Germany as a model for emulation and the use of war as a legitimate tool of state policy. We may observe that the case of Nazi Germany would serve as the classical model for any state intending to rearm illegally. It is more than likely that Iran has been following the model of Nazi Germany, so our appreciation of this historical precedent is all the more valuable. In the light of the above, it is possible that Iran’s loud threats of retaliation in the event of outside intervention are a calculated bluff, whose purpose is to win time and divert attention from its current weakness. Furthermore, in light of Iranian goals and determination to achieve them, any American “diplomatic package” or a “Grand Bargain,” as in the case with North Korea, will not be effective. “Words and pieces of paper” will not solve this problem.

If we look at the broader historical significance of issue, it is not entirely coincidental that both Russia and China, who have been selling Iran nuclear technology and material, are interested parties in the outcome of this dispute. Both are members of the Security Council who possess veto power and have supported Iran’s challenge to the mechanism of non-proliferation. Although major changes have taken place in the former Soviet Union since 1988 and the Soviet empire has ceased to exist in its traditional form, Russia’s policy has shown a remarkable continuity over the decades. The KGB, its ruling political elite has kept its grip on the levers of power in a manner similar to that of the German General Staff during the Weimar era.

A long-standing objective of Russian policy – which coincides with that of Iran – has been to eradicate the American political, military, and economic presence in Iran and to make its weight felt generally in the region. Thus, selling nuclear know-how and conventional weapons to Iran has become an effective and profitable means of pursuing this objective. A secondary, but considerably important objective which dates back to Lenin is the Russian desire to destabilize and undermine the Western and European orientation of the world state system, which, from 1815 to the First World War, generally succeeded in maintaining a condition of order and equilibrium. According to the Princeton Sovietologist, Robert C. Tucker, “The basic fact of contemporary history to which the new ‘Eastern orientation’ in the Russian communist mind and the new post-Marxian working theory corresponded was the collapse of the Europe-centered international order in and after World War I. As this working theory saw from the beginning, the defection of Soviet Russia from the European system [during the First World War] signalized most dramatically and consequentially the collapse of the old order.”

It should be remembered that the Soviet Union, which was relatively weaker than the United States, adopted an indirect strategy of engaging in a “prolonged conflict” against the West which became known as the Cold War. The type of asymmetrical warfare included waging wars and staging confrontations simultaneously in different parts of the world and endeavoring to weaken its adversaries from within.

One of the main Soviet methods was using proxies, which permitted denial of direct responsibility for its actions and their consequences. It is noteworthy that Iran’s Supreme Leader, the Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, reportedly studied at Patrice Lumumba University in Moscow, the Communist Party’s elite school for revolutionaries. In the present case, Russian support for Iran has been understated and covert, because Iran is a state, as opposed to a revolutionary movement, and the degree of “deniability” is limited. This is one of the risks which Russia must minimize and which exposes it to considerable vulnerability.

In light of the most obvious historical precedent and of a wider international perspective, it is clear that there are several important questions at hand: 1) Will Iran succeed in arming illegally? 2) Will the world allow it to do so at Iran’s moment of maximum vulnerability? 3) What will be the ultimate effects of Iran breaking out of the international system? The consequences of the first two are clear enough, but the effects of the third are less obvious. If the international community cannot enforce the existing nuclear non-proliferation agreements, and two of its strongest members undermine this effort, it is more than likely that the United Nations, which has not distinguished itself, will go the way of the League of Nations. Fear and terror will become the governing principles of the new order, replacing the fabric of the international relations based on law and trust. As Lenin hoped at the beginning of the twentieth century, the center of gravity of international relations in their new form will move from the Occident to the Orient. If enlightened leaders find this prospect unacceptable, they will have to act effectively and soon.

Dr. Joel S. Fishman is a Fellow of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs

Comments (RL)

This analysis recoups the one I’ve been laying out in terms of “waking up.” In the case of Iran, not only do we have the problems of defecting “allies” like USSR and China, but also the warping impact of Bush/American Derangement Syndrome. People are so worked up about Bush lying to us to get us into Iraq, than any argument about intervening in Iran is immediately met with scorn and fury.

As a result of the massive European objection to Western troops in Iraq, there’s no chance of doing anything in Iran, no matter how indicated it might be. Now, those with BDS can say, “that’s all Bush’s fault, blame him.” And those of us who may not like Bush but are not deranged by a self-destructive desire to see him humiliated, say, “it’s at least as much Europe’s fault for wishing failure on this enterprise.”

But that still doesn’t help us to attack the problem. One of the USSR’s great advantages in the Cold War was countries like France who, pursuing their own grandeur, were only too happy to do things that harmed the colossus they so resented, the USA. As I’ve said before at this site, I’m not sure we can afford such politics of resentment this time around.

As for the decline of the UN, I know many people who, filled with indignation at the way the the Anti-Zionist agenda has kidnapped UN deliberations and made it a by-word for moral insanity, and for corruption and hypocrisy, would be only too happy to see the institution fail. That, in my estimation, would be a kind of UN Derangement Syndrome. Those historians who know how long and hard visionaries fought to have an institution where wars could be avoided by serious dialogue before a world community of nations committed to treating each other fairly, understand how dangerous its failure might be.

It would, to take liberties with Joel Fishman’s analysis and jump to an implied conclusion, unleash the dogs of war. Once unleashed, no one can control how wild and long they may rage.

Not Too Gay In Iraq

It seems that the gay community in Iraq wants Saddam back:

“I don’t want to be gay anymore. When I go out to buy bread, I’m afraid. When the doorbell rings, I think that they have come for me.”

That is the fear that haunts Hussein, and other gay men in Iraq.

They say that since the US-led invasion, gays are being killed because of their sexual orientation.

They blame the increase in violence on the growing influence of religious figures and militia groups in Iraq since Saddam Hussein was ousted.

Islam considers homosexuality sinful. A website published in the name of Ayatollah Sistani, Iraq’s most revered Shia cleric, says gays should be put to death.

“Those who commit sodomy must be killed in the harshest way,” says a section of the website dealing with questions of morality.

The statement appears on the Arabic section of the website, which is published in the Iranian city of Qom, but not in the English section … But Hussein, Ahmed and gay activists outside Iraq say there is clear evidence that the situation has deteriorated dramatically for Iraqi homosexuals.

“Saddam was a tyrant, but at least we had more freedom then,” said Hussein. “Nowadays, gay men are just killed for no reason.”

Update on France: Bower on Timmerman

I just posted on Bower’s article on Europe. Among the authors he discusses is Ken Timmerman, a journalist who writes for the Washington Times. Timmerman’s book, The French Betrayal of America, details the ways in which France under Chirac has betrayed the United States in the period after 9-11. Here are Bower’s thoughts which in many ways complement, sharpen, and intensify my own reflections on France.

As Ye’or recounts decades of behind-the-scenes Euro-Arab collaboration through dialogue, Kenneth R. Timmerman, in The French Betrayal of America, recounts decades of secret French-Iraqi collaboration through arms deals, kickbacks, and payoffs.19 Timmerman—an American investigative reporter who lived in France for many years—is no glib France-basher, happily acknowledging America- and Israel-friendly actions by France during the Cold War, mostly when François Mitterand was president. For example, Mitterand secretly assisted Israel when it took out Iraq’s French-built Osirak nuclear reactor, covertly arranged to keep strategic mobilization plans out of the hands of his Communist transportation minister (who would’ve turned them over to the Soviets), and, most impressively, shared with the U.S. a breathtaking trove of information acquired by French spies about Soviet attempts to acquire Western military technology. Though a Socialist, in short, Mitterand “chose America as his ally” and thus “helped President Reagan win the cold war.”

Yet if Mitterand stood by America’s side in the confrontation with the Soviet Union, he rejected U.S. involvement in North Africa (notably the 1986 attack on Libya), since his country’s political class regarded that continent, a rich source of “commissions and kickbacks to French political parties,” as “its baronial domain.” Nor did Mitterand’s staunch cold-war support last: in the late 1980s, pecuniary considerations led him to “switch sides” on the issue of military sales to the Soviets.

Still, he was a better ally than his predecessor, Valéry Giscard d’Estaing (whose government agreed, in a nuclear cooperation treaty with Iraq, to bar Jews from participating), or his successor, Chirac, who repeatedly called Saddam his “friend” and helped him skirt UN sanctions after the Gulf War. Chirac’s corruption, which would appear to be of Dantesque proportions, nearly destroyed his career; 9/11 saved it. The terrorist attacks, and America’s response to them, deflected attention from his sleazy shenanigans and enabled him to posture on the world stage as a statesman and peacemaker. And what the 9/11 terrorists couldn’t accomplish, the right-wing extremist Jean Le Pen did: in the 2002 election, Le Pen ended up as Chirac’s challenger, causing everyone in France except the Le Pen fringe to rally behind Chirac, who, after winning over eighty percent of the vote, was seen as his country’s savior, “the very incarnation of the permanent values of La France.”

All of which makes it even more fascinating to read Timmerman on Chirac’s shabby little demimonde of bribes and bagmen. From the cash stashes in Chirac’s office toilet to the Quai d’Orsay diplomat caught poking through garbage bags outside a Houston home to the classified U.S. and UN data that Chirac, unforgivably, shared with Saddam right up to the invasion of Iraq, Timmerman’s account makes the entire history of Washington scandals from Watergate onward look like a Girl Scout cookie drive. He makes a point that’s actually occurred to me before, too: that the French are so accustomed to their politicians being profoundly cynical and corrupt that they naturally assume all American politicians are like that, too. One recalls the cheers at Cannes for Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11, that pastiche of falsehood and cheap innuendo; the bitter irony is that the scale of French leaders’ real-life avarice and perfidy dwarfs even the worst of that film’s accusations against their American counterparts.

The French Betrayal of America, however, is not just a chronicle of unexampled greed. It is also a story of obsession with power and nostalgia for French glory. A U.S. official who works closely with the French tells Timmerman: “France is not the United States. And they just can’t seem to get over it.” Passages quoted by Timmerman from a book by Chirac crony Dominique de Villepin (now the French prime minister) provide disturbing insight into the mentality of a political elite that, as Timmerman puts it, has “consistently favored authoritarian regimes over democracy, not just in the third world but also in Europe.” He observes that Villepin’s naked envy of American power and his nostalgia for a return to a time (Napoleon’s) “when France was ruled by an all-powerful state, that had only to appear to be obeyed” bespeak “a dangerous delusion and a penchant for authoritarianism.” They certainly paint a picture of a government that seems to have learned little from modern European history. “French diplomacy today,” a French politician tells Timmerman, “continues to consider Iraq as a cake to be divided and not as a democracy to be constructed.” And get a load of this comment by a Villepin adviser: “We get all the blame [for making illegal arms deals], but not the signature [on the contract]! . . . We pass for a country that is cynical and immoral without getting the business such an attitude is presumed to bring.”

Timmerman agrees with Guy Millière that Chirac’s support for Saddam was based largely on the latter’s high standing among French Muslims. “French leaders,” he quotes Millère as saying, “will never take a decision that could make young radical Muslims angry”; had Chirac supported the Iraq invasion, there would have been “riots in the suburbs.” (Most Muslim neighborhoods in France are on the outskirts of cities.)20 In France, this appeasement mentality is reflexive. Timmerman quotes a local French official who, prior to the sixtieth-anniversary D-day commemoration, worried out loud in Le Monde that “What image will we send of Normandy to Arab and Islamic countries by receiving Bush and Putin with pomp and circumstance?”

It sheds interesting light on my thoughts about French lack of gratitude. They have to watch their backs.

Just Like The Nazis (Part 2)

The RAF officer who refused to serve in Iraq and accused the United States of acting like the Third Reich is going to jail.

From the Daily Telegraph:

An RAF officer who refused to serve in Iraq because he considered the war illegal was accused of arrogance and attempted martyrdom before being jailed for eight months at a court martial yesterday.

Flt Lt Malcolm Kendall-Smith, 37, a doctor, was found guilty of “calculated and deliberate disobedience” of five direct orders after he was told to replace another doctor in Basra last year.

He considered that the war was “a campaign of imperial conquest” by America.

After reading international law on conflict, including the Nuremberg Principles, he believed that he would be committing a crime by taking part in the “illegal” occupation. Kendall-Smith looked shocked when the sentence was read out and he was dismissed from the RAF. He was also ordered to pay £20,000 in defence costs.

Before asking for the sentence to be read, Judge Advocate Jack Bayliss told him: “You have, in the view of the court, sought to make a martyr of yourself. You have shown a degree of arrogance which is amazing.

“Obedience of orders is at the heart of any disciplined force. Refusal to obey orders means that the force is not a disciplined force but a rabble.

“Those who wear the Queen’s uniform cannot pick and choose which orders they will obey. Those who seek to do so must face the serious consequences.”

The Blindness of Even-Handedness: Fisking the Independent

The Independent recently ran a brief article that typifies the problem of media bias, even from someone who is avowedly sympathetic to Israel. (Hat-tip Tom Gross.) Below I fisk the article, not because it is so bad, but because it tries to be fair, and because a fair number of Israeli advocates would find it if not good, at least a relief from the kind of British coverage to which they have become accustomed. The article appears in blockquote in bold.

Aggressors and victims on both sides of the wall
In election week, Israelis and Palestinians agree on one thing: the Western media is biased
By Vincent Graff
The Independent on Sunday
April 2, 2006

Arnold Roth did not choose to become entangled with the international media. That decision was taken for him by Izzedine al-Masri, a Palestinian man who walked into a Jerusalem restaurant four-and-a-half years ago with a bag containing nails and explosives strapped to his body. When al-Masri blew himself up, he took Roth’s 15-year-old daughter, Malki, and 14 other people with him.

In an unpublished letter to the editor Roth notes on the slight but significant inaccuracy of this comment:

Perhaps you need to be the parent of a murdered child to be sensitive to the distinction. But the fact is he was carrying a guitar case. Inside the guitar case was a real guitar, and inside of that was a deadly load of explosives and nails. That is what he exploded when he went to his seventy-two virgins, ending my daughter’s life as well as the lives of fourteen other innocent visitors to a restaurant. 130 other people were maimed and injured, by far most of them women and children.

Two things about that massacre need to be understood in order to make sense of Mr Graff’s article’s title.

First, the name of my daughter’s killer has appeared on every published list of Palestinian “martyrs” since August 2001. When numeric comparisons are made between Israelis and Palestinian Arabs killed since the start of the Arafat War in 2000, my daughter’s murderer – along with many other murderers – is in the list of the Palestinian victims.

Secondly, Israel’s policy of having soldiers at crossover points check into whether musical instruments carried by Palestinian Arabs are real has been severely criticized in the past two years. That criticism, which I consider to be mostly unfair and wrong, takes on a different meaning when you know that one of the many massacres of Jews in Jerusalem was done via a booby-trapped guitar. Many people simply don’t know about it, which is why I am pointing it out here.

Captain’s Quarters Mission

Captain’s Quarters reports that, according to an Iraqi document, two years before the US invasion Saddam Hussein was planning to attack “American interests” and “liberate Palestine.” Some people doubted the accuracy of the document. What did Captain’s Quarters do?

In order to solve this problem, I decided to hire two Arabic translators on my own.

I found a translation service, Language 123, that employs a number of translators who work as free agents. The first translator, Nabil Bouitieh, works in the UK as a full-time translator for several government services. He has language certificates from Karl Marx University in Dresden, the German Cultural Center in Damascus, a degree in translation from Polytechnic of Central London, and a Masters of Diplomatic Studies from the Diplomatic Academy of London. Separately, I also hired Hamania H, who works from Damascus. She earned several degrees in language at Saint Joseph University in Beirut, including masters in translation, foreign languages, and bachelors in both areas and in law as well.

Neither of them knew that I had asked the other to translate the document. I split out page 6 from the original PDF and sent it to both along with payment. They both returned their translations today, and their results make it clear that Joseph Shahda had it right all along. First, we have Nabil Bouitieh:

Top secret memoranda sent to Al-Kadisseiya Military branch No.2205 dated 04/03/2001 and to the Headquarters of Zee karr military branch No. 246 dated: 08/03/2001 that we were informed by another memo from Ali Unit military branch No. 154 dated: 10/03/2001. We urge you to inform the above mentioned unit of the names of people wishing to volunteer for suicide action to liberate Palestine and strike American interests according to the following below for your information and to let us know.

Now here’s the translation of the same passage from Hamania H:

A confidential letter of Qadisya Military Branch, that holds the number 2205 dated on 4/3/2001, notified upon a confidential letter issued by Thi Kar military command, that holds the number 246 dated on 8/3/2001 and notified to us upon a confidential letter issued by Ali squad military command, that holds the number 154 dated on 20/03/2001. Kindly provide the aforementioned squad with the names of persons desiring to volunteer in the suicidal act in order to liberate Palestine and to strike the American interests in accordance with the following details. You are informed and we therefore expect you to notify us.

You will note that all three translations of this document — performed by three different people working independently of each other — all translate this section almost identically. All three explicitly show that the Iraqi military had ordered a call for volunteers to carry out suicide attacks on American interests, six months before 9/11 and two years almost to the day prior to our invasion.

He concludes:

This confirms that Saddam Hussein and his regime had every intention of attacking the US, either here or abroad or both, using members of their own military for terrorist attacks. That puts an end to all of the arguments about whether we should have attacked Iraq, we now know that Saddam and his military planned to attack us. This one document demonstrates that had we not acted to topple Saddam Hussein, he would have acted to kill Americans around the world.

UPDATE: Why “case closed”? Because this shows that Saddam had recruited suicide bombers to attack American interests — showing that destroying Saddam’s regime is an integral part of the war on terror, not a distraction.

Those Iraqi documents …

From the Investor’s Business Daily:

Last month the Pentagon began releasing records captured during Operation Iraqi Freedom. Among the documents is a letter dated March 11, 2001, written by Abdel Magid Hammod Ali, one of Saddam’s air force generals. According to an unofficial translation, Page 6 of the letter asks for “the names of those who desire to volunteer for suicide mission to liberate Palestine and to strike American interests.” Assuming the document’s accuracy, this shows that Saddam’s regime was not only providing aid and support for terrorist organizations of other countries. It was also planning its own bombings directed at U.S. facilities and personnel.

Where Is The Outrage?

Newsweek publishes a bogus report that guards flushed a Koran down the toilet in Gitmo, and the Islamic “street” erupts in protest. A Danish newspaper publishes cartoons deemed offensive and the Islamic “street” irupts in protest. Today suicide bombers dressed as women go into a mosque and kill 79 people. Where is the “Islamic” street?

BAGHDAD, Iraq – Suicide attackers wearing women’s robes blew themselves up Friday in a Shiite mosque, killing 79 people and wounding more than 160, police said. It was the deadliest single attack in Iraq this year and the second major bombing of a Shiite target in as many days … Jalal Eddin al-Sagheer, the preacher at the mosque and one of the country’s leading politicians, said there were three assailants. One came through the women’s security checkpoint and blew up first, he said. Another raced into the mosque’s courtyard while a third came to his office before detonating his bomb, said al-Sagheer, who was not injured.